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Why Did the Crew of the RMS Olympic Refuse to Work?

The Titanic was one of the most famous ships in the early twentieth century. Its popularity propelled it when the movie came out. But did you know that the Titanic had a twin boat, the Olympic?

The RMS Olympic crew members refused to work on the ship when they discovered that the lifeboats aboard were substandard. They found out less than a month after the Titanic sank. The company fired them instead of changing the lifeboats.

The RMS Olympic

White Star Line started building the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Olympic on December 16, 1908, in the shipyard of Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Its creation was brought about by the attempt to compete with the Cunard Line. White Star wanted to create a class of liners towards comfort and luxury. Its construction was completed in 1911 and was known to be the largest and most luxurious liner. The Olympic was 882 feet and had the capacity of carrying 2,300 passengers. (Source: Britannica)

RMS Olympic was the first of the three Olympic-class ocean liners built. It was followed by its sisters, the Titanic and the Britannic, in response to Cunard’s fastest passenger ships, the RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania. J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star, chose to compete in size rather than speed and offer luxury while traveling the open waters.

When the ship was being built, it was only referred to as Number 400 because it was the 400th hull Harland and Wolff worked on, and the Titanic was only referred to as Number 401. The construction of the Titanic was started three months after the Olympic to alleviate the pressures of the workers in the shipyards.

The Olympic saw its maiden voyage on June 14, 1911. It traveled from Southampton, England, to New York under the watchful eye of Captain Edward J. Smith, who would also commandeer the Titanic later on. (Source: Titanic)

Key Differences in the Titanic

Despite being built to be essentially identical to each other, the two ships had notable differences. Here are a few of them.

  • The Olympic’s Promenade A Deck was unenclosed, while the Titanic’s was enclosed with a steel screen and sliding windows to provide additional shelter in the open air.
  • Titanic’s B Deck had the Café Parisien. Olympic only added the cafe in 1913.
  • Most of the flaws found in the Olympic were eliminated from the Titanic, like the creaking of the aft expansion joint.
  • Skid lights on the A Deck were oval in the Olympic, while it was round on the Titanic.
  • Titanic was heavier than the Olympic, weighing 46,328 tons versus 45,324 tons.

(Source: Titanic)

Olympic Crew Members’ Mutiny

By the end of April 1912, the Olympic was getting ready to set sail from Southampton to New York. However, 284 of its crew members went on strike. They feared that the ship’s new collapsible lifeboats were not seaworthy. Initially, the boat did not carry enough lifeboats for everyone on board, so the management hurriedly purchased second-hand collapsible lifeboats.

The crew members discovered that most of the forty newly purchased collapsible lifeboats were rotten and could not even open. They wrote to the manager of White Star Line to replace these boats, but the response they received was that they could not be replaced since it was passed as seaworthy by the Board of Trade Inspector. This response enraged the crew members, and they launched a strike in response. (Source: Titanic)

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